Top tips on securing photography funding

Cornerhouse Digital Reporter Ben Williams joined our Funding For Projects session and picked up a few useful tips…

Securing funding as a photographer or artist is difficult. Private investment in the arts is down, budgets are tighter than ever, and many businesses see sponsorship as a luxury they can’t afford. At last week’s Red Eye session, freelance fundraising consultant Helen Jenkins, and Adam Lopardo from The Sponsors Club, offered us more than just a glimmer of hope as they shared some top tips on securing future funding.

Adam introduced the idea of corporate engagement rather than corporate sponsorship, a more creative and effective way for businesses to support Artists than a scattergun of logos adorning your exhibition.

Art In The Workplace

Art In The Workplace lets a company commission work by local artists to help them connect them with their community or provide a talking point amongst staff and clients. By educating staff about the work, it can give them a unique talking point which provides an icebreaker in meetings. It’s worth remembering that your original artwork could only cost a tiny percentage of the price of a new premises, yet can give a company a genuine identity. Creative training, which can be used as a team building exercise, is another way you can use your talent to engage with businesses and get them to support your art.

Corporate Social Responsibility & Cause Related Marketing

Companies are more image conscious than ever and CSR is extremely important. Try thinking of what you can do for their image and what they are already doing. Perhaps there is a social angle to your work that may be of interest to a business looking to improve its image. If a business is doing something positive they might be interested in commissioning photographers to produce ‘Cause Related Marketing’. Not only do they get fantastic artwork but you’re documenting what a wonderful organisation they are.

Corporate engagement might not be funding the work you want to be doing, but it could be an opportunity to fund yourself as an artist and make contacts for that slightly riskier, dream project.

Crowd Funding

If you are determined not to compromise your work, crowd funding is an alternative. Sites like We Did This offer you the chance to pitch your idea to the donating public. Adam has a few essential points on crowd funding:

  • Make a short pitch – Say what you’re doing, why it’s a great project to be involved in and give a small example of your work.
  • Use your friends – Get the ball rolling with some donations from friends, people are less likely to sponsor a project with no funding.
  • Make sure your target is reachable – Again, people are less likely to sponsor a project with too small or large a target. Be ambitious, but realistic.
  • Use your networks – The Internet is a wonderful place to find likeminded people, use Twitter and Facebook to engage people in your project.
  • Give people an incentive – For instance, a donation of £100 gets a signed print, a donation of £500 gets you an invite to the opening of the exhibition
  • Most important of all, say ‘THANK YOU’ – People want to be thanked and they are much more likely to ask a friend to get involved if you’ve thanked them.

Putting Together a Proposal

The competition for arts funding is good and getting better, making a direct appeal to a business or arts commission comes with many pitfalls. Getting your proposal past the front desk is the first step on your journey to securing funding. Helen offers some invaluable advise on putting together a proposal:

  • If there is a form, then use it! – Otherwise keep your proposal short and well formatted with simple headlines and bullet points.
  • Research – Make sure you know who you’re applying to and that your application is relevant. Look at their annual reports and make sure your applying at the right time.
  • The ‘good’ problem – Be emotive and relate your work to people, not objects. Explain how your project improves the horizon and what the future would be missing without it. Underline how this is your vision and you are the best person for the job.
  • Budget – Be realistic
  • Use your contacts – Through friends and your extended social network you’ll be surprised how many people you know who can give you some advice and help you tailor your application.

Helen left us with one final point, ‘The main reason why people don’t get funding is because they don’t ask’. If you have an idea you think is worth funding, then don’t let yourself down by not trying. There is funding out there. For more tips follow Helen, Adam and The Sponsors Club on Twitter. If you need further inspiration listen to Michael Kaiser’s brilliant fundraising seminar on the Arts Council website.